One Last Dance for Your Friend

10/02/23

When you walk through the doors of Club Ten, my jaw drops like a broken elevator. To see you again. Here. After the way we left things. Still, I shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve always been an inveterate, indiscriminate pussy-hound despite your incongruous streak of piety.

You and your friend, both in polo shirts like matched frat-boy end tables, sit at a four-top by the mainstage. It’s Thursday evening. The club’s already hopping.

You pick me out of the happy hour crowd fast enough.

Why wouldn’t you? Let’s be real. I’m the best-looking dancer here. The older patrons say I resemble young Elizabeth Taylor. But you used to joke I was getting long-in-the-tooth for a girl who lives in L.A. Me, at the ripe old age of twenty-six. You said I’d better lock down a man. Soon. Or I’d be too decrepit to attract any interest.

Of course, I’d never lock you down. That was understood. It was one thing for you to date a stripper. Quite another to bring her home to Mommy and Daddy.

The joke is on you, though. Older men have more money, and I’m still plenty young to them. You think you’re doing well with your apartment in Marina Del Rey. Meanwhile, I spend most of my days at my boyfriend’s mansion in Bel-Air. He’s married, but nobody’s perfect. His wife certainly doesn’t think so. He has a temper and he hits me sometimes. But getting backhanded every few months is better than being a CPA. I’m sure of that.

You always looked down on me. It’s funny because you’re just a boy from Calabasas whose parents paid for him to attend UCLA. You only have a nest egg because Mommy and Daddy gave you everything. Meanwhile, teenaged me hitch-hiked from Nebraska with no assistance from my family. My parents couldn’t finance a trip to L.A., even if they wanted to help me, which they don’t. I’m a self-made woman.

You invite me to sit with you two clowns. Like it’s an honor. I want to laugh, but I plop my ass in the chair between you two. I immediately class up the table, if you ask me. I wear a silky silvery robe draped over black lingerie. I have to play nice with you boys because, after all, I’m at work.

You and your friend have some fun at my expense. Of course, I am the entertainment. So, I let myself entertain you boys. Then you want a dance. Not for yourself. After all, as you assure us, you’ve seen all there is to see of me . But you think your friend should give the girl a whirl.

You’ve left your wallet on the table. A rookie mistake. It only takes a minute, when your eyes are fixed on the mainstage and your friend’s eyes are crawling all over my body. I can’t touch him with my hands during the lap-dance so, while I grind my ass against your friend’s crotch, my fingers rifle your wallet.

I find a faded school photo of your college girlfriend with her number scrawled on the back. Sentimental you. Her zeroes, looped in red ballpoint pen, look like hearts. I tuck the photo into my bra. Later, I’ll call to let her know you still think about her. Obsessively. I’ll ask her whether she’d accept a phone call from a prisoner. I’ll assure her your felony wasn’t serious.

I take three hundred dollars—most of your stash—but I do leave you two fifty-dollar bills. I’m generous that way.

After excusing myself from your table, I give your waitress and busboy each twenty bucks to spit in your drinks and your dinner. Then I wander out to the valet area where I pay the guy parking a BMW beside your Mercedes fifty dollars to ding your paint job with the door. I give the other valet twenty to ignore it.

I warn the cop who trolls Club Ten to watch you on the way out. You may have been overserved. Gotta be careful.

I hope you had fun tonight! I sure did.

I’m not good at good-byes, but I do appreciate closure.

~ fin ~

Meghan Leigh Paulk photo

Meghan Leigh Paulk is a Texas writer. She made her fiction debut this year with a short story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in their Department of First Stories. Her novel Hollywood Down Low was a finalist in the 2019 Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest and was selected for Pitch Wars 2022.